Along the country
lanes of Europe
grows the starry-flowered plantain, clinging
to the verges
of the paths as if seeking human company
. The Germans
of old times called the plantain Wegewarte, or "watcher of the road," and in that name lies the story of its genesis
A maiden left her village one night and followed a path into the a wood to meet her lover. He never came to her. Throughout the night, she waited for the sound of his footsteps, but all she heard was the hooting of the owls and the sigh of the wind in the trees, and in the small hours, she began to weep.
Finally, she lay by the path and died. The sun rose. All around her body, green shoots began to grow. By noon, pale blossoms had threaded their way through the dark strands of her hair. By evening, the body had vanished into a mass of tiny flowers. They haunt roadsides still, keeping a vigil for a lover who never appears.